I mentioned in my last post—the one about the important, new David Wells paperback on hyper-modernism and the need for firmer, evangelical theology—that I was going to a Wee Kirk conference. That is, a “small church” retreat, for leaders and pastors in Presbyterian congregations that are small, often rural, and working to determine how to be faithful and missional in their small town settings. It is always a good event. I want to thank here the folks that hosted us, helped us lug boxes o books, and set up said books.
We appreciate the casual mood, the fun times, the Godly desire for true renewal.
One of the speakers, the brillant Matthew scholar, Dale Allison, gave a ponderous and heart-felt lament that we are increasingly in a culture that does not read. I think he was correct to affirm the role of fiction, and he encouraged us all to do what we can to support the old practices of reading real books.
Well, let me riff on that just a bit by noting a few books—novels and creative memoirs—about the importance of a sense of place, a commitment to one’s region, people and land, books that might be of interest to anybody who laments the loss of the places we love. Or who celebrates the fight for the places we love.
I’d like to think this is fitting, since these stories portray in vivid ways, the social context for Wee Kirks. These are, fun as they are, really, really important. We are thrilled to commend them.
This Heavy Silence: A Novel Nicole Mazzarella (Paraclete) $14.95 We raved about this in a larger review over at the website a few months back, and it is now out in paperback (complete with a reader’s group study guide for book clubs.) Set in Ohio farmland, this is a very moving and well-told story of a single woman farmer, fighting to keep her farm afloat for a young girl she has taken in…It won the presitigious first novelist award offered by Paraclete at the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing, was heralded in Publisher’s Weekly, garnered a coveted starred review in Library Journal and was the winner of the 2006 Christy Award in the first novel catagory. Ms Massarella must know a lot about rural life and the vocation of farming for she realizes the necessary details with exquiste beauty and meaning.
Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette: A Mostly Affectionate Account of a Small Town’s Fight to Survive Bill Kauffman (Picador) $12.99 Kauffman was an inside-the-
Washington-beltway-mover-and-shaker who came to his senses and proved the old adage wrong. You can go home again, and you can learn to care about small places (including the Muckdogs, the local minor league baseball team) and you can wax elequant about saving old buildings, supporting a local economy, fighting Wal-Mart and other grimy aspects of industrialized uniformity, and learning to care about one’s region’s ecology, history, lives and deaths. Kauffman is really, really smart, is remarkable as a rural historian (see his brillant collection of pieces called Look Homeward America about which I will write more, soon.) I’d say he does for small towns what Wendell Berry does for rural Appalachia, but that isn’t quite it. But close. Dispatches… was maybe my favorite book of the last hot summer, enjoyable, inspiring, learned and funny. God bless this “placeist” and his odd little Batavia, New York.
Truck: A Love Story Michael Perry (Harper) $24.95 I must warn that this is not out quite yet–due in a couple of weeks. I got an advanced copy, with a funny old note from the author, which made me really, really, happy. I read his popular Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time about his small town Wisconson ambulance work, and raved, here, about his collection of thoughtful, fun, rural essays, Off Main Street.I love this Perry guy. This is heart-felt stuff, funny and real, and I want you to know about him if you don’t. Pre-order it here and I will give you a big ol’ whup-a** discount of 25% off and ship it the day it arrives. And you know, I don’t say that every day!